If Valtteri Bottas so much as finishes second at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, his teammate Lewis Hamilton will wrap up a sixth Formula One title a full two races early. Luckily for Bottas—or he might just be apathetic about it at this point, who knows—he’ll begin that quest for the win on pole position.
Hamilton will start fifth, while Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, respectively, occupy the spots between the two.
Bottas didn’t finish atop the board until it mattered in Q3, the final of F1’s three elimination rounds. McLaren’s Lando Norris topped Q1 but shook out in eighth by the time Q3 rolled around, while Leclerc topped Q2. The pole is Bottas’ fifth this year, and his time of 1:32.029 breaks the former track record.
The record is in spite of all of the bumps being talked about about this weekend, as the COTA track surface continues to get rougher as it ages and as such high-downforce race cars lap it dozens of times. In a Friday press conference, team bosses were citing potential reliability issues and affects on setups in relation to the bumps, and Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams said she heard that “turn one and two were particularly difficult to get round.”
The full lineup is below, and Racing Point driver Sergio Perez will have to start from pit lane due to a practice violation:
In terms of season picture, it’s Hamilton’s championship to lose this weekend. He had a chance to clinch the title three races early at the Mexican Grand Prix last weekend, which would’ve been his third in a row, but didn’t. Thus, Bottas has to win the race this weekend in order to delay his teammate’s title victory another week to the penultimate race in Brazil.
But even if Bottas does win the race, Hamilton would have to finish nearly out of the points in order to not clinch this weekend, which isn’t likely unless he has trouble. Circuit of The Americas, after all, is his playground.
Regardless, here’s the graphic on how Hamilton wins (or doesn’t), via F1:
No matter what happens in the title race, though, there’s still a grand prix to watch out there this weekend as well. And if that grand prix is anything like last year’s, it should be a good one.